Helena van Essen
Studio for Visual Art
PO Box 15185
NL- 1001 MD Amsterdam

+ 31 (0) 6 24 80 44 24

Capital’s Victory March


Capital’s Victory March
picture: The Traffic Lambertus Zijl, 1903
facade relief Beurs van Berlage, Amsterdam
edited photo printed on Epson Enhanced Matte on MDF
50 x 70cm

In 1904, Rosa Luxemburg participated in the Second International, a congress for socialist parties, held at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. She also had meetings in De Burcht at the time. This trade union building (1900) of the Algemeene Nederlandsche Diamantbewerkersbond (General Dutch Diamond Workers Union) was designed by architect Hendrik Petrus Berlage.

During her eight-day stay, she no doubt also saw the brand-new Beurs van Berlage (1903). That the socialist Berlage was commissioned to build a stock exchange building was remarkable, as he believed that stock exchange trading was not long-lived. He therefore designed a building that in the future, after the triumph of socialism, could serve as a grand community centre, a ‘people’s palace’. Moreover, as a Gesamtkunstwerk, it was supposed to stimulate people’s spiritual development. His friend and kindred spirit Albert Verwey was commissioned to think of which wall decorations, sculptures and reliefs would create an organic whole with the architectural design.

The relief The Traffic illustrates that international trade – symbolised in boats, goods and pack animals from all corners of the world, such as horses, bulls and camels – promotes fraternisation between the world’s peoples, see the Chinese, the Arab and the Westerner. From this would eventually emerge a united Europe, even a united world: equal and just. In the quatrain below the relief, Verwey articulates this ideal.

I replaced this quatrain with a text by Rosa Luxemburg. Very sharply she saw the consequences of capitalism. Her dream image is still far away, the brutal victory march of capital more topical than ever.